DVD Review: “X-Men Origins: Wolverine”
I can understand why fans of the character Wolverine and his band of misunderstood mutants, the X-Men, were disappointed with this film. Sure, the movie has some kick-ass action sequences, but the story is just hodgepodge of scenes thrown together to get to the next big fight. I still can’t say that it’s is a complete waste of time, though, because I find Hugh Jackman (who portrays the titular character, also known as Logan) to be one of the most charismatic actors working today. However, I’m glad that I didn’t lay down eleven bucks to go see this in the theater because, like the rest of those fans I mentioned, I would have been disappointed and pissed off.
There were so many times during the film I almost shut it off out of frustration, but then director Gavin Hood and his team of technical wizards would throw another amazing sequence at me (Wolverine sailing through the air toward a helicopter, a battle atop a nuclear tower) that I would have to push my jaw closed. With an assortment of characters from the comic books showing up throughout the movie, it felt like Fox was trying to cram as many new characters into the movie to see which ones might stick and possibly branch them off into their own spin-off movies.
The film opens with a prologue showing Logan as a boy in 1800s Canada being raised by a nobleman. A tragic turn of events leads Logan to discover that he is a mutant, with bone claws that extend out of his hands and the ability to heal at an accelerated pace. He also learns that his strange friend, Victor, who has the same healing ability and nasty razor sharp nails, is actually his brother. The two of them run away with a mob chasing them and the credits roll over a montage of great battles that take place during the Civil War, World Wars I and II and the Vietnam War. We watch as the adult Victor (Liev Schreiber) and Logan (Jackman), both soldiers, fight in each of these conflicts and never age. With their mutant power of incredible healing, they can’t die, even when bullets go through them.
The credits end with Logan and Victor facing a firing squad. They are shot and the screen goes black. Moments later, a prison door opens and the two men, having survived their own execution, are now faced by William Stryker, played by the go-to guy for dickhead bureaucrats, Danny Huston. Stryker is forming Team X, an elite group of soldiers, all of them mutants. Stryker has an ulterior motive, though, as we find out much later in the film. After a couple of missions Logan, sick of senseless killing, finds his conscience and decides to leave the elite group. He tries to bring his brother along with him, but Victor feels he’s found a good thing. Logan inexplicably walks off into the jungle as Stryker and his band of killer mutants look on. This is just the first of many moments when Logan walks away without any interjection by Stryker while others watch. In reality, a man of Stryker’s power would never let a soldier walk off; he would be taken down. But that would have ended the movie within the first ten minutes.
Logan becomes a lumberjack and forms a romance with a beautiful schoolteacher, Kayla (Lynn Collins). He’s in love and at peace, save for the nightmares he has about his past.
As you would expect with any action film, Logan’s idyllic life isn’t going to last and Kayla is killed. Logan finds himself reunited with Stryker, who offers to help him find her killer on the condition that Logan gets himself injected with a new, indestructible metal called adamantium. The idea is that he’ll use his new metal-laced skeleton to become the ultimate soldier while also seeking revenge on the person(s) who killed his girlfriend. Instead of simply using his animal instincts to hunt the killer himself, Logan agrees. Huh? Anyway, after a painful procedure, Logan overhears Stryker order his memory erased and the now indestructible Logan, having renamed himself Wolverine, freaks out and escapes. After receiving help from an elderly couple, Wolverine spends the rest of the film trying to find Stryker’s secret lab. He pays visits to the surviving members of Team X for clues and discovers that a) Stryker is performing experiments on mutants and b) only one person has escaped this lab. His name is Remy LeBeau, a.k.a. Gambit (played in a star-making turn by Friday Night Light’s Taylor Kitsch). Obviously Wolverine is going to find the lab, leading to a showdown between Wolverine and Victor, Wolverine and Stryker, and finally Wolverine and Stryker’s pet project, a mutant killer named Weapon XI.
In the extra features, JackmanÂ and producer Lauren Shuler Donner have state how much they wanted to actually film the classic comic storyline of Wolverine’s adventures in Japan (as depicted in the Wolverine limited series in 1982). However, Fox felt that a proper origin story must first be told before taking off for the Far East. Thus, the filmmakers chose to create a story that told not only how Wolverine got his metal claws, but also how he became such a savage warrior. This could have made for a very interesting film, especially if it had been approached with a Bourne Identity structure. Instead, a straightforward origin story was written, and instead of an insightful, probing look at a dark character, as in Batman Begins, or a fun, “look at my great powers” origin like Spider-Man, X-Men Origins is more or less a revenge movie involving Wolverine/Logan and his brother, Victor. As for the gaggle of other mutants thrown into the mix, only Kitsch’s Gambit leaves a lasting impression. Interesting actors like Dominic Monaghan, Ryan Reynolds, Daniel Henney and Kevin Durand have bit roles as characters essentially on hand to provide plot devices for Logan to make his way to his big showdown with Stryker and Victor.
With the success of this film at the box office, I’ve heard rumblings in the press that the Japanese adventures of Wolverine will form the basis for the next film. I hope so; I also hope that for the next movie the writers actually come up with something cohesive. Until then, fans of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine will have to make due with this DVD. The special features are pretty basic, director commentary, behind the scenes featurette, etc. There is one nice feature, though: a conversation between Stan Lee, co-creator of the X-Men, and Len Wein, co-creator of Wolverine. The two men discuss Lee’s working relationship with the comic book giant, Jack Kirby, and Wein’s involvement with relaunching the X-Men comic books in 1975 and helping turn it into one of the most popular comic book franchises of all time.